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Barack and Michelle Obama returned to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue on Wednesday for the unveiling of their official White House portraits.

“Barack and Michelle, welcome home,” President Joe Biden told the former first couple in the East Room where members of  Congress, former Obama-era staffers, and other high-profile attendees gathered to celebrate the long-awaited unveiling. The crowd could be heard audibly gasping when the paintings were finally revealed. 

“Nothing could’ve prepared me more for being president than being at your side for eight years,” Biden continued. “Being elected twice, you’ll be known as one of the most consequential presidents in history, with one of the most consequential first ladies.” The president also highlighted the creation of the Affordable Care Act and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals while speaking endearingly of their famous friendship. 

“This is a gift to the Obama presidency and to their legacy. You were always there for me. I remember you were there with me when my son passed. I’ll always appreciate that eulogy.”

The paintings were created by Robert McCurdy and Sharon Sprung. Keeping with tradition, the Obamas handpicked the artists.

Today’s unveiling marks the first time the White House resumed the tradition since 2012. Started by Jimmy Carter in 1978, the unveiling typically sees presidents hosting the ceremony for their immediate predecessor, regardless of party. But Donald Trump, a man who’s never been shy about breaking political customs, refused to host it.

In their remarks, the Obamas thanked both artists and reflected on what they hoped these portraits would mean for future generations. 

“Presidents so often get airbrushed. They even take on mythical status, especially after you’re gone and people forget all the stuff they didn’t like about you,” said Obama. “But what you realize as you’re sitting behind that desk, is that what I want people to remember about Michelle and me is that presidents are human beings just like everyone else.”

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This one, a multiyear investigation, published in 2021, exposed conditions in sugar work camps in the Dominican Republic owned by Central Romana—the conglomerate behind brands like C&H and Domino, whose product ends up in our Hershey bars and other sweets. A year ago, the Biden administration banned sugar imports from Central Romana. And just recently, we learned of a previously undisclosed investigation from the Department of Homeland Security, looking into working conditions at Central Romana. How big of a deal is this?

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WHO DOESN’T LOVE A POSITIVE STORY—OR TWO?

“Great journalism really does make a difference in this world: it can even save kids.”

That’s what a civil rights lawyer wrote to Julia Lurie, the day after her major investigation into a psychiatric hospital chain that uses foster children as “cash cows” published, letting her know he was using her findings that same day in a hearing to keep a child out of one of the facilities we investigated.

That’s awesome. As is the fact that Julia, who spent a full year reporting this challenging story, promptly heard from a Senate committee that will use her work in their own investigation of Universal Health Services. There’s no doubt her revelations will continue to have a big impact in the months and years to come.

Like another story about Mother Jones’ real-world impact.

This one, a multiyear investigation, published in 2021, exposed conditions in sugar work camps in the Dominican Republic owned by Central Romana—the conglomerate behind brands like C&H and Domino, whose product ends up in our Hershey bars and other sweets. A year ago, the Biden administration banned sugar imports from Central Romana. And just recently, we learned of a previously undisclosed investigation from the Department of Homeland Security, looking into working conditions at Central Romana. How big of a deal is this?

“This could be the first time a corporation would be held criminally liable for forced labor in their own supply chains,” according to a retired special agent we talked to.

Wow.

And it is only because Mother Jones is funded primarily by donations from readers that we can mount ambitious, yearlong—or more—investigations like these two stories that are making waves.

About that: It’s unfathomably hard in the news business right now, and we came up about $28,000 short during our recent fall fundraising campaign. We simply have to make that up soon to avoid falling further behind than can be made up for, or needing to somehow trim $1 million from our budget, like happened last year.

If you can, please support the reporting you get from Mother Jones—that exists to make a difference, not a profit—with a donation of any amount today. We need more donations than normal to come in from this specific blurb to help close our funding gap before it gets any bigger.

payment methods

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